Creston softball wrapped up a successful season Thursday night with its end of the year banquet.
Head coach Mike McCabe kicked off the banquet by thanking and showing appreciation for the parents of his players for their contributions on making the season not only successful, but continuing to make the atmosphere of softball home games an enjoyable experience.
“Game day in Creston for softball has always been a kind of special thing,” said McCabe. “It’s special because of a lot of people who put in a lot of hard work night in and night out at all of our games. Our environment at our softball games is second to none. I hear it each and every year from opposing fans, coaches, players and umpires that they enjoy coming to Creston.
“I appreciate all of your help. It’s a huge team of moms and dads. ... We really appreciate it,” said McCabe.
Thanks and appreciations were also sent out to media, grounds crew and training staff on working closely with the coaching staff and players through the season.
The coaching staff broke down each individual’s contributions to the team, ranging from their play on the field to their efforts in practice and their ability to be a good teammate in the dugout.
Honoring those who finished the season as the most improved, McCabe handed the award to both Katelyn Adair for junior varsity and Neveah Randall in varsity.
Adair finished the season with a batting average of .577 in JV, driving in 16 runs and hitting four doubles.
Randall hit .356 in 73 varsity at-bats, slugging three homers and 25 RBIs. A near regular in the starting nine as an eighth grader, she posted the highest average in the Hawkeye 10 for eighth graders.
“What a great season this young lady had,” said McCabe on Randall. “She’s got a lot of poise for an eighth grader, really has a good feel for the game. She has a bright, bright future ahead of her.”
In a similar fashion, the players voted on an the hustle award for both junior varsity and varsity.
The award, meant to honor players who have shown dedication to the craft and for those who have worked hard on the field, was given to Braelyn Baker in JV and for Peyton Rice in varsity.
“Braelyn is without a doubt one of our hardest workers and hustlers, day in and day out,” said McCabe. “She’s also proven herself to be a great teammate. ... Peyton really had a breakout year on offense and it wasn’t by accident. She put in a lot of work in the offseason and it paid off.”
Out of primarily the two spot in the order, Rice hit .450. She got on base in just over half of her plate appearances, registering an on-base percentage of .504. Her track state qualifier wheels helped her slap 49 hits and go 15-of-19 in stolen base attempts.
For MVP, the Panthers awarded Emma Hanson for JV and Gracie Hagle in varsity.
McCabe had a laundry list of good things to say of the two, starting with Hanson.
“This gal had one at-bat last year on the varsity level and all she did was kept at it and keep working and listened to the coaches, plugging away,” said McCabe. “With that, she started becoming more consistent and more confident in herself. ... She had that at the JV level, but once she figured that out at the varsity level there was no looking back.”
Hanson hit .338 with a homer and 22 RBIs in her junior campaign. She had 77 at-bats, getting a hit in 26 of them.
Hagle was as productive at the plate, hitting. 391 with a team-high five homers and 32 RBIs.
The Panthers wrapped up their season with an 18-15 record overall. In Hawkeye 10 Conference play, the Panthers finished 13-7. The Panthers finished fourth in the conference standings.
McCabe joked, saying after struggles early in the season the team recovered and kept bettering themselves game after game.
“Had you told me after the first two weeks of our season that we were going to win 18 games or be 13-7 in conference, I probably would have invited you in out of the sun and told you to sit down so we could have a long talk,” said McCabe. “... Our goal was to keep getting better and keep playing our best softball as the calendar turned to July.”
McCabe noted the Panthers finished 4-4 against the top four teams in the conference, with the four wins coming against ranked opponents at the time of the win.
The 2019 Panthers had one of the most successful seasons at the plate in program history in Hawkeye 10 play.
The Panthers finished first in runs scored, total hits, doubles, triples and RBIs in conference games. As a collective unit they were second in homers and slugging percentage, fourth in on-base percentage and fifth in team average.
McCabe remarked it was one of the best offensive teams since 1995 offensively, placing in the top three in multiple offensive categories.
“A lot of times those teams played ten or more games than what we got in this year, so it makes it all the more impressive,” said McCabe.
The Panthers bid farewell to two seniors, both of whom were mainstays in the everyday lineup.
McCabe thanked the Panther duo for their everyday leadership, saying that they don’t know how much of an influence and contributing factor off the field they had to the success of the program during their four years at the varsity level.
Center fielder Saige Rice departs the Panthers as a four-year letterwinner. In her senior season, Rice hit .310 with an on-base percentage of .430. She finished second on the team in homers, clubbing four. She also had 31 RBIs, the second highest, and hit nine doubles.
McCabe had high praise for his star center fielder, hailing her as one of the best the team has had in recent memory.
“We were talking about her a little bit ago about how we’ve had some really good center fielders in Creston softball lore,” said McCabe. “This gal can put her name on that list. What a great job.”
In her career, Saige Rice hit .323 with seven homers, 77 RBIs and 23 doubles.
Along with Rice, Brielle Baker leaves the Panthers as a four-year letterwinner.
“What a great defensive second base she played,” said McCabe. “I’ve lost track of the number of balls hit to short right field that I knew were going to fall, but she made the play on them. ... She did a great job for us, just a great season.”
McCabe said he was particularly fond of Baker running the bases, putting her state-qualifying legs to use on the base paths for 10 stolen bases.
In her career, Brielle hit .277. She stole 33 bases, hitting six doubles and five triples across her four years in the varsity level.
Both Brielle Baker and Saige Rice will be attending Southwestern Community College in the fall, both as student athletes. Saige will continue her softball career, playing for the Spartans come spring. Brielle will continue her storied basketball career in Creston at SWCC.
Seniors – Brielle Baker (4), Saige Rice (4).
Juniors – Emma Hanson (1), Sara Keeler (3), Heylee Shields (2).
Sophomores – Sam Dunphy (3), Braelyn Baker (3), Karly Calvin (1), Peyton Rice (3), Katie Adair (1).
Freshmen – Gracie Hagle (2), Morgan Driskell (1), Macy Adamson (1), Halle Evans (1).
Eighth Graders – Keely Coen (1), Haylee Gillam (1), Neveah Randall (1).
Academic Hawkeye 10 – Brielle Baker, Saige Rice.
Most Improved – Katelyn Adair (JV), Neveah Randall.
Spirit Award – Danika Schultes, Tristen Rice.
Hustle Award – Braelyn Baker (JV), Peyton Rice.
Most Valulable Player – Emma Hanson (JV), Gracie Hagle.
You Can Award – Katie Adair.